Saturday, October 30, 2010

We're Still Alive...

...after an overnight sail straight from hell.

We left Tilghman Island at 10 AM Wednesday morning and the forecast was so favorable we decided to take advantage of it and an overnight sail only made sense.

The day was bright and sunny and our new solar panels managed to keep the batteries from discharging. Our instruments use about 8 amps and therefor a day of sailing can drain them.

I'm very thankful though that Hans rolled them up and stored them at sundown or they would have blown away during the night.

Hans took a picture of this freighter at sunset when things were looking pretty good.

We had a fantastic 12 knot west wind and smooth seas until midnight. Five minutes later the predicted north wind hit with winds gusting over 30 knots, but we hadn't counted on swelling seas. The rest of the night we slalomed, sluiced, and slammed our way down the Chesapeake, and tried to stay out of the way of freighters that always seem to come out of nowhere. The seas boiled and rolled like a devil's cauldron and by one AM we had a ditch bag ready. It's also the first time I've ever seen Hans wear a tether.

We talked about finding a cove to duck into but the few we could find on the charts looked tricky and would take forever to get to so we just kept moving.

At the beginning of the trip when Hans had suggested we lash our dinghy to the stern (pictured in my last post) I thought it was unnecessary. But if we'd towed it like I wanted to I know it would have ended up at the helm with Hans along with the huge wave that broke over his head and flooded the cockpit at around 3 AM. The wave also blew out our stern light and dislodged the dinghy and it spent the rest of the night fighting it's restraints. Hans finally ended up yanking a piece of its line up over a winch where it held for the rest of the night.

I think this is when our GPS antenna bit the dust and we could no longer keep a fix so we used the navigation CD in my computer until it crashed and I couldn't get it going again. Out came the hand held GPS and it worked fine.

I started puking around 2 AM and by 4 AM I left Hans and lurched my way to the salon where I fell asleep and drooled all over the neck of my jacket. Trying to navigate our bodies around the boat was like being inside a pinball machine, we bounced off everything. At one point when Hans stood up he very nearly got thrown out of the cockpit and had to brace his feet widely apart and hang on tight in order to stay in the captains seat.

We had prayed that daylight would bring calmer seas but when I woke up at eight it was just as bad and now I had dry heaves. Seeing the waves in daylight was even scarier, and as we crossed the final shipping channel in Norfolk, Hans said, "Jesus Christ, we can't catch a break, look at that." Straight ahead of us was a massive submarine and two Coast Guard Cutters and we had to change course once again. Watching a submarine submerge while up close and personal is pretty interesting.

Finally, twenty four hours and 114 miles after leaving Tilghman we motored into Little Creek in Norfolk, Virginia, and docked at Little Creek Marina. It was still gusting and even with help we still ground our anchor into a piling at our very awkward slip. The Knotty Cat took her final revenge by snagging a dock line, that had fallen into the water, and snarled it up in her starboard propeller.
Hans wasn't able to get a nap until after we walked about 2 miles to a West Marine to get a new antenna for the GPS. They didn't have the one we want but a West Marine in South Carolina does. They'll get it to us somewhere along our trip.

We left Little Creek this morning after a tug of war with the Knotty Cat over that tangled dock line. We thought we won but as we left the marina we noticed white smoke coming out of the exhaust. We are currently motoring south into the Norfolk Harbor Reach using the port engine. We hope after a little bit of rest it will clean up its act.

We are now headed toward the Intercoastal and plan on taking the Virginia Cut. We had really hoped to go via The Dismal Swamp but we need to use the quickest route possible this time, as Hans has work and poor Wilbur is in Doggy Day Care while we're away. I have to say though that as much as I miss our little boy I'm very glad he's not on this trip.


  1. Wow that sounds incredible! Is there anything that you would have done different in hindsight?

  2. Probably not since we had no idea the seas would be so high. However we've decided if the forecast calls for 30+ knot winds we aren't going out. I'm also glad we had extra GPS systems on board!

  3. Oh, I hope your luck gets better! Like you said, just don't go out when there are 30+ knot winds. I know I'm too chicken to for an overnight!

  4. The last few days were much better and we are just now heading into the waterway to Beaufort NC.